Why The Mamas & The Papas Hated Their Biggest Hit, “Monday, Monday”

Writing a hit record is like catching lightning in a bottle, and sometimes, you don’t know that you caught it until after the fact. Such was the case for The Mamas & The Papas in 1966, who spent hours in the studio arguing about how much they hated what would become the So-Cal band’s biggest hit: “Monday, Monday.”

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Featuring the airtight accompaniment of the Wrecking Crew and the quartet’s signature harmonies, the song was an instant success. It sold 160,000 copies on the first day, propelling the track to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100—the first and last time the So-Cal band would top that chart.

But if you were to have asked every band member besides John Phillips who wrote it, “Monday, Monday” was a bust.

A Quest For International Appeal

John Phillips wrote “Monday, Monday” in 1965 while The Mamas & The Papas were recording their debut album, ‘If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears,’ with producer Lou Adler at Western Studios in Hollywood. Pushed by his bandmates and Adler to come up with something with the same commercial viability as “California Dreamin’, Phillips later claimed he came up with his über-relatable tune in about 20 minutes. 

Phillips’ ex-wife and former bandmate, Michelle Phillips, described the song’s first moments in her autobiography California Dreamin’: The True Story of the Mamas and the Papas. “John came out of [our friend’s] bathroom with his guitar strapped on as usual. ‘I wanna write a song that has absolute international appeal.’ Well, good luck, good luck to you, we said. ‘A theme that has something in it that everyone can relate to.’” Then, he sang one line for the group: Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day. 

To say they were unimpressed would be an understatement.

Why The Mamas & The Papas Hated The Future Hit So Much

According to Michelle Phillips’ autobiography, she and Cass Elliot were the first to speak up. “It’s just about the worst song we’ve ever heard. It’s so pretentious,” they retorted to an incredulous John Phillips. Michelle said the band continued to bicker over the song through the recording session before producer Lou Adler stepped in to mediate. “You do the singing. I’ll do the releasing,” Adler said. Denny Doherty later recalled not liking the song, albeit not enough to vocally protest.

“I liked the opening background vocals, the ‘bah-da-da-da-da-dum,’” Doherty later recalled to Matthew Greenwald, author of Go Where You Wanna Go: The Oral History of The Mamas & The Papas. “I thought that was cool. But nobody likes Monday, so I thought it was just a song about the working man. Nothing about it stood out to me. It was a dumb f***in’ song about a day of the week. By the time the rehearsals were over for the vocals, I thought, ‘Thank god that’s over!’” 

Elliot would later cite “Monday, Monday” as one of her favorite Mamas & The Papas tracks in a 1968 Rolling Stone interview. But considering she was on a promotional run for her first solo album post-band breakup, it’s unlikely she would’ve opted to focus on band drama by bringing up her initial apprehension. And after all, that Grammy Award the band won in 1967 for Best Contemporary R&R Group Performance probably helped soothe the sting of any studio drama.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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